Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. International, Mr. Toastmasters, Ms. Entrepreneur, Mr. Non-IIT, Mr. Real Estate


Ms. Eastern European Serial Entrepreneur


  • 660 GMAT (Q43/V38)
  • 8/10 GPA
  • Master of Laws (a joint degree resulting from five years worth of study, but no bachelor’s degree) from the No.1 university in home country of Eastern Europe
  • Work experience in the cultural management field, holding C-level positions inpublications, music management, event management, and, recently, fashion management)

    Established first company, an eco-spa boutique, five years ago and successfully sold it last year; co-founder and CEO of a second company, a fashion house, in 2014, employing 12 and already among the top five independent designer labels in the country

  • Extracurricular involvement as a member of the national board of European
  • Law Students’ Association; a pro-bono lecturer in a fashion academy, providing consulting for young brands or entrepreneurs
  • “My USP is the ability to be a mediator between creative and business industries, because I am used to working with both profiles”
  • Goal: To scale my company and bring it to the international level and secure a strategic investment. In a long term I see myself in general management in an industry that excites me – luxury, technology or media.
  • “I want to employ people, not to be employed by someone else. My greatest assets, I guess, are my unusual background (female entrepreneur under 30 from Eastern Europe), with leadership experience and international exposure. My USP is the ability to be a mediator between creative and business industries, because I am used to working with both profiles”
  • 27-year-old female from Eastern Europe

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10%

Stanford: 10%

Berkeley: 30%

INSEAD: 35% to 40%

London Business School: 35% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: If you grew up in the U.S. instead of Eastern Europe, you would have gone to an Ivy or near-Ivy instead of the best no-name university in your country and drifted into Hollywood or McKinsey instead of being forced into a law program and lots of things you did not like. You would not have had to worked so hard to ‘make it’ on your own, and you would be — given your brains, drive and crackerjack personality–

in a way better place.

End of patriotic message. I am open to those who say, “oh no Sandy, if she grew up in the U.S. she would be spoiled and not work hard, and would have gone to law school out of laziness, and then become just another unhappy ex-lawyer blogging in Starbucks instead of the owner of three companies.” Well, you never know, but here is a dirty little secret. For every rich and spoiled kid who shows up in the tabloids, there are 100 rich and spoiled kids who work hard and succeed. Being spoiled in this context just means they expect to succeed and get a lot of help. Rich and spoiled kids like that are actually a client base of mine.

OK, let’s deal with you. Your first problem as an applicant is that you are an entrepeneur. When you say, “I want to employ people, not be employed by someone else,” I begin to wonder, and so do adcoms, why you need an MBA at all. Because generally that’s not the DNA of an MBA program. MBA programs want to create managers who work in large and small hives like consulting firms, banks, and large companies.The skills an MBA program admires, and look for, are

1. be smart

2. shut up

3. sit still.

That adds up to graduates who know how to kick-down and kiss-up amid a hive of interconnected bodies. That may be you, but that is not your track record.

So I’m unclear why you need an MBA. You are an entrepreneur and so far, only an entrepeneur. Being an entrepreneur is an accomplishment that will be undervalued by business schools. They are suspicious of entrepreneurs because they don’t know what you’ve really created. Schools, of course, give a lot of lip service to the idea of starting companies these days but they are suspicious of admitting people who have actually done that and nothing else. Entrepreneurs don’t register well with the rankings. Entrepreneurship is inherently risky and schools don’t like risk. It’s that simple.

If you want the MBA as a “credential” to raise more money, and beyond that, as a calculated bet on increasing your network or upgrading your social life, okay, I buy those reasons. And you could win your bet. The issue becomes how do you package that in an application.

For openers, you need a better than 650 GMAT. For you, the GMAT is the Berlin Wall. You’ve got to get over it just to start hustling. Take it five times if you have the time.


You have got to get near 700.

You have said, “My USP is the ability to be a mediator between creative and business industries, because I am used to working with both profiles.”

Ha, ha, in America that means being a consultant. Say that you want to earn an MBA in order to work for a global consulting company with a focus on retail, fashion, etc. At least as a start. After that, you can branch out to direct investing (cite examples of consultants who have done that) or start a boutique consulting firm for X or Y creative industry. I believe that persona may get you further than the truth, e.g., you want to start a company. With your track record, why not start another company right now–without an MBA.

As to your target schools: your chances at Stanford or HBS are remote. First, there is no gold in your resume. That is “gold” as assayed by adcoms. There are no brand name schools or jobs on your resume and not much “identity politics” bullion either. (To the extent possible, try to present yourself as a victim of a corrupt regime and country, who has had to put up with bribery and gender discrimination.) That is not going to flip the outcome at HBS or Stanford, but it will help you at Haas and other U.S. schools you may be interested in. You should think about NYU: It’s a good place to meet interseting people, a good place to meet VC’s, and a good place to get lucky.

Outside the U.S., I think you have a good shot at INSEAD, although I am no expert. Ditto LBS. Both LBS and INSEAD would be great choices for you. Your chances of getting in are above average. Your dreams could come true there. You would upgrade your network and get credentialized there. You could meet venture capitalists.

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